Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 19, 2015
Discuss this article at the Medicine & Health Table inside the Diner
Today, Doom arrived at my Doorstep.
As regular readers of the Diner know, a while back I suffered a partial paralysis of My Right Arm, which I have been dealing with for the last few months. I actually did a Rant on the problem shortly after it cropped up.
Here’s the transcript for those of you who prefer to read rather than listen.
Greetings Doomfans, and welcome to another edition of the Frostbite Fall Daily Rant, here on the Doomstead Diner.
For today, I am going to leave the world of Global Doom once again to talk about personal Doom. This goes along the lines of it’s a Recession when your neighbor loses his job, it’s a Depression when you lose yours.
I remain amongst the fortunate folks in the world of Collapse for the most part, no debts, money in the Bank, still employed, live in a nice still uncollapsed neighborhood etc. However, I have health problems, most of which are my own fucking fault for taking lousy care of my corporeal package for the last 50+ years. Well, actually I took pretty good care of myself for the first 35 or so, but slacked on this stuff for the last score or so of years.
I mentioned in a prior rant my issues with PAD, peripheral artery disease which has made my legs less than world class for running the marathon, or even walking to the dumpster to dispose of some of the waste from my life. This has been an annoyance for a while, but overall hasn’t made life that difficult for me.
A couple of weeks ago though a NEW problem cropped up, which appears to be neurological in nature, though I am not 100% sure of this or what exactly is causing it, though I have some pretty good ideas on it at this point, after dealing with it for the last few weeks.
The etiology of this latest issue is one day about 3 weeks ago or so I noticed some pain in my right arm. The next day, ENORMOUS Pain at the base of my neck. The day after that, I could barely move my right arm.
I hate the whole med industry, so refused to go to the Doctor. I figure at the time its a pinched nerve in my neck, maybe some CRACKING from a chiropractor will fix it up. I had good luck with a chiropractor once before, so even though these guys don’t have a great rep overall I figure this is worth a try again. The first session gives me some minor relief, but the next session does nothing. I cant see continuing having my head and back cranked on like this if I can’t perceive releif after the torture session.
So now I do finally talk to an MD, a friend of mine, casually about this issue. He informs me I can have a whole HOST of problems possible here, from a Stroke to Lung Cancer. So now I am SURE I am gonna die soon. He also lets me know there is no way to make an absolute diagnosis without getting not one but probably 2-3 CT scans of the tissue in my arm, my neck and my torso. The TESTS alone here are probably $3-4000, and they won’t cure any of these problems either.
If I DO find out I have Lung Cancer, what’s the prognosis there? Very low survival rate if you got the BIG C in your breathing apparatus. In the med solution to this issue, you gotta go through Radiation and Chemothrapy, and even after all of that most folks don’t make it more than 5 years best case scenario. Not gonna do this no matter what.
If I find out its a STROKE, also not much can be done. These things either heal over time or they don’t. Your brain and nervous system either find a work around to the problem or not. Physical Therapy can help here, but you don’t need a Physical therapist to help you with this, all the info for this is available Online on what to do.
So now I decide to be my OWN Doctor, and go researching to try to figure out WTF is wrong with my Right Arm based on all these symptoms, and after a couple of days of this I get what I consider the most likely answer, I have something called”Cervicogenic Headache”, just a real bad version of this. It hits the lower neck vertebrae, and comes basically from Bad Posture and doing stuff like hunching over your laptop 8 hours a day writing about DOOM. LOL.
So now I figure I am not really dieing of Lung Cancer, I’m just a CRIPPLE for some indeterminate period of time until I can Rehab my way out of this or not.
Until you have actually LOST the use of one of your arms, you don’t realize how much this screws up even simple things you do all the time like wipe your ass or shave. I happen to be (fortunately in this case) Left Handed but even so I have traditionally wiped my ass with my Right Hand and put the shaving Cream on my face with this hand also. I already have had to re-educate myself to wipe my ass with my LEFT hand instead, and spread shaving cream on my face with this hand also. This hasn’t been too hard overall, but there are other more difficult things I have to find work arounds for while I Rehab here, or not.
My Cameras and my Car are two main ones. Did you know all Cameras are Right Handed? The Shiutter Button is always on the right side of the camera. If you only have use of your LEFT hand, you can’t hit the shutter button to take a pic, Try it with your camera. Fortunately here I don’t have TOTAL loss of the Right Arm at the moemnt, it’s just real weak through many positions. If I hold the camera up with my left hand, I can essentially rest my right hand on the camera and my finger still works to press the shutter button. LOL.
Similar with the car. The Transmission Lever is operated with your Right Arm, what I did to adapt here is use my Left Arm to lift my Right arm up to hold the lever, Dr. Strangelove style and then pull on my right arm with the left one to shift it into Drive. LOL,.
Putting on your clothes, tieing your shoes, buttoning your shirt, zipping up your fly, EVERYTHING is a challenge here without a fully functional right arm! Fortunately, I did not lose complete use of it, just partial, and more fortunate than that I appear to be getting incremental improvement as days go by here, though it is mighty slow overall and I don;t know if I will ever get back complete use of this limb.
I keep my Left Fingers crossed the Left Arm doesn’t go down the route of the Right one before I can get it working OK again. As of now, I can adapt, even though many things are difficult to accomplish. Similar loss in the Let arm would make that impossible though.
On the upside, I can still keyboard with both hands, though a lot slower now. Also got no problem ranting into a microphone attached to a wireless headset, though it is a bit of a challenge to get the damn headset onto my head to begin with.
Basically at this point I am a Living Metaphor for the Industrial Economy, falling apart one piece at a time, held together with duct tape and bailing wire.
That’s all the Doom, this time until next time, here on the Doomstead Diner.
I didn’t see a doctor about the problem until just recently, since I was without insurance and just to get it diagnosed was going to cost a small fortune, much less any of the possible techno-fixes depending on exactly what the cause of the problem is. Well, not completely accurate, I have a friend who is an ER doctor, and I talked with him about it, and we looked at some crappy X-Rays of my neck the Chiropractor took which didn’t really show much.
I considered also going to an Accupuncturist after the Chiropractic did nothing, but finally passed on going down that route also. Visits there weren’t too cheap either, though a good deal cheaper than a visit to the Internist to get started on this thing. I finally got some new Med insurance though, so a few weeks ago it was off to the Internist for the first appointment in the Big Med Industry.
From my chats with the ER Doctor, I was aware of a few of the possibilities here. Possible trauma to the Spinal Cord, possible blockage at the Brachioplexus from a tumor, possible forms of peripheral neuropathy.
For my initial visit with the Internist, $500 not including the Blood Tests, which I am not sure how much they charged for those yet. He did a few squeeze tests and the old fashioned ping your elbows and knees with a rubber mallet trick, and found enough wrong that he recommended I see the Spinal diagnostician in Anchorage.
I saw her the first time 2 weeks ago, and she did a few more tests, but without an MRI and Chest Xray and a more comprehensive set of nerve tests, making any kind of diagnosis wasn’t possible. $1000 for this visit. So I was scheduled for my BIG DAY today of the full 9 yards of Techno Medicine, XRAY, MRI in the morning then the nerve tests in the afternoon.
The XRAY was EZ and fast, then off to the MRI Tube. You don’t want to be claustrophobic in these things, and I wondered while in there how some of the Large Size people we have in Amerika can even FIT into one of them. I asked this question after finally getting out, and the answer is they have special Jumbo MRI units for the Big People. LOL.
A few rules while getting your Neck Scanned, don’t swallow your spit or move your tongue while the RACKET is going on, it can blur the image. You have your ears plugged up and pads over the ears, but it’s so loud when the machine is running that the sound travels right through your bones and into your ears that way. Also, don’t need a bathroom trip, which I started getting concerned about around the 20 minute mark inside the Electronic Coffin. Fortunately, I made it through the full 30 minutes without pissing the demeaning Hospital Gowns they make you wear for these things. I avoided any claustrophobia feelings by keeping my eyes closed the whole time and pretending I was taking a nap.
Cost for this adventure, around $3000 for both, then I had a couple of hours for Lunch and upstairs in Tower A of Providence Hospital for the Nerve Tests.
After once again undressing and donning another Hospital Gown, the nerve Test Specialista came in, and we had a Discussion first about what was now possible in the panoply of things that could be wrong with my nervous system.
First, a RELIEF, the Chest XRAY showed my Lungs were clear, we could rule OUT the Big C of Lung Cancer. 🙂
Then came the BAD NEWZ. What could not be ruled out based on the symptoms and initial tests was ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She was going to have to run through full conductivity and needle testing to see if this was the cause or not.
At this point of course, my Heart is Pounding, my Brain is Racing. I KNOW the progress of ALS, it remains an incurable disease and if it is what I got, then I got MAYBE a year or two left before my motor neurons progressively deteriorate and eventually I choke to death on my own spit, after a few months where I can’t feed myself. I mention to the doctor that if I got ALS, I would rather die fast here.
So now it is time to do the nerve testing, and folks, this is positively Medieval stuff, I imagine they do versions of it with higher amperages at Gitmo, but even at the low end here of the Shocks, every one makes you JUMP and grit your teeth if you don’t wanna be a baby and scream. The Needle stuff is even worse than the electrode stuff. I am not sure which was worse, this or the day I had my Teeth pulled by the Dentista, it’s a Pain Tossup there.
I was reminded of my Science Cabin biology experiments on Frogs that I caught at Summer Camp. In those days, nobody was worried about being Cruel to Frogs, so all you did before disecting them was “pith” the brain of the frog so it wouldn’t jump around on you when you dissected it, but the nerves still worked, you could make legs move with a little jump start from a 9V battery, etc. In this case, I was the Frog.
It took about an hour of this shit for Dr. Frankenstein to work her way all the way from my toes to my hip on my right leg, then from my fingers to my shoulder on my right arm, then finishing me off with tests of the neck muscles. I am a limp rag at this point but move my decrepti ass off the table and back to the consulting chair for the DISCUSSION.
It’s probably NOT Lou Gehrig’s Disease, if it is it is very early stage and with new medicines coming down the pipe, I might have a few years left before I choke on my own spit. 🙂
Now the BAD NEWZ!
The main problem appears to be in the Spinal Column between the C4-C5 vertebrae, this apparent from the MRI. I apparently have an extremely narrow channel for the nerves going down through my neck, this is probably congenital and then exacerbated by Age as bone spurs develop on the vertebrae and can put pressure on the spinal cord. Normal Channel width around 10mm, Spinal Specialists begin to be concerned around 7-8 mm, mine is 5mm. Accckk!
Then there is the DAMAGE. There is trauma and scarring of the tissue where I whacked my neck in a fall I took just prior to all this shit going down. It’s very precarious, and the Doc WARNED me I need to wear I cramps on my shoes for Ice and Snow, make sure there is nothing to trip over, don’t whiplash your neck in any way because…at the point where this is affected, if it gets any more pressure I will be a QUADRAPLEGIC!
This is a GOOD result for a QP trying to rehab. I’ll spare you the depressing videos of QP being fed by helpers and getting his bed pan cleaned of excrement and being turned over so he doesn’t get Bed Sores.
Is there HOPIUM here for RE? Of course there is, modern medicine is AMAZING!
My next stop is with the Spinal Surgeon, where any chance for fixing this up lies in having at least two of my neck vertebrae fused, along with trying to grind off some of the bone spurs and damaged spots to open the channel a bit for the nerves to operate the way they are supposed to. Said operation of course has its own set of risks, they probably have to go in from both the front and back of the neck to try to fix it, and the recovery period is LONG.
I’m not sure I even WANT to go through this shit. I haven’t figured out yet what I am going to do.
On the upside, it is very liberating in a way, I no longer have to concern myself with Prepping anymore, I am a fucking goner no matter what here, even if modern medicine can keep me ticking a while, in a SHTF scenario I am DEAD in short order.
If I just stay careful here, maybe I can last a while longer with just a malfunctioning right arm, write a few more blogs and record a few more rants before I turn into a vegetable. All I ask here is that when the messages from my Brain shut down to my Fingers to further keyboard out the Doom here on the Diner, you Diners send in Dr. Kevorkian if I cannot off myself at that time.
To conclude, I DO consider myself the Luckiest Doomer on the Face of the Earth. I had a great run through the Age of Oil, living by my own set of rules and making only the compromises necessary to make to get along. I had enough time and woke up to the nonsense going down early enough that I was able to write down just about everything I could think of to examine the history and how we got here, and how we might work out of this very ugly situation. Also, much like Lou Gehrig, I am glad to have been associated with the people who have helped me in creating and building the Diner. A great bunch of Doomers. Love you guys.